Parents who have children at UCLA’s child care centers said they are pleased with the recommendations a task force made to improve the centers’ management issues, but had mixed responses on the administration’s response.
Some parents at UCLA’s Early Care and Education centers, which provide child care for UCLA faculty, staff and other families in the community, complained the centers have suffered from hostile work environments, poor management and low morale since last year.
In response to these complaints, Scott Waugh, the executive vice chancellor and provost, held a town hall meeting with parents in December and created a task force to investigate the centers. The task force, which released its recommendations for improvement last month, said the centers should hire a new executive director with better leadership skills, clarify hiring and firing policies and improve communication between parents, teachers and administrators.
The task force also recommended the centers hire an administrative director to handle tasks such as human resources and finance.
The report focused extensively on complaints surrounding ECE Executive Director Jayanti Tambe’s leadership. Tambe, who resigned in January, will be executive director until the end of this month, after which she will be pursuing a doctoral degree. The report said Tambe was not collaborative and transparent in making decisions and did not communicate well with teachers and parents.
Laurent Pilon, a parent with children at the Fernald Center, said he thinks Tambe’s resignation allows the center to move forward and begin to make changes to improve the way the center is run.
“Morale has really increased in Fernald after Jayanti Tambe resigned,” he said. “The atmosphere is really good these days.
Pilon said Tambe was a divisive figure who behaved like a dictator and resisted input from parents and teachers.
“We never tried to do her job or interfere,” he said. “But sometimes we say, ‘Hey we think this is a good program.’ But she was never receptive to feedback like that.”
Pilon pointed to the end of Gymzone, a sports program that had been at ECE for 18 years, as an example of sudden changes without any explanation. Pilon said Gymzone’s director left ECE after the center stopped paying for the program.
However, some parents had a different view of Tambe.
Jane Schmitz, a parent at the Krieger Center, said she thought Tambe improved ECE by bringing in additional grant money and making sure the center followed regulations.
“Tambe brought so much creative energy to the center,” she said. “I don’t want to take away from the experience of parents who did not have a good experience with her, but we have to recognize that there is a diversity of opinion on Tambe.”
Pilon said he thinks some parents supported Tambe because she had a better personal relationship with them.
“Tambe can be a little bit manipulative,” he said. “She can be charming and convincing, but in our experience she is full of empty promises.”
Several parents said they agreed with the the ECE task force’s recommendations and hoped the administration will be able to move quickly to implement them.
“Many of us were very anxious to see the report and were not happy with the delay, but if you look at the report and how they went about it, they did a solid job,” Pilon said.
However, some said they felt there were issues the report overlooked that the administration should address.
A mother who has a child at an ECE center said she thinks the report should have addressed sexual misconduct allegations against one of the center’s directors. The parent said there are rumors that teachers who had sexual relations with the director were given special benefits over other teachers.
The parent said she wants to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation by ECE leaders.
She added said she thinks Brad Erickson, the UCLA Campus Services Enterprises executive director, should no longer have authority over ECE because he is not experienced in education or child care.
The task force report said ECE should move to a more appropriate place in the administration’s organization. However, Erickson continues to be involved in the center’s management. On Wednesday, he told parents he will have input on the executive director screening committee.
Pilon added he thinks Erickson frequently lied to parents and was ultimately responsible for hiring Tambe.
“He’s the one who hiked tuition by 20 percent in the last two years,” Pilon said. “After removing Erickson, I think we will have a good foundation to repair what Ms. Tambe broke down.”
Schmitz said the administration has been reaching out to parents to create an advisory board and a screening committee for the next executive director.
“I think they are listening and providing specific ideas,” she said. “They have a delicate balance between considering our input and moving ahead.”
Pilon said at the beginning of the academic year he was considering pulling his children out of ECE and going to a different child care center. But because of the report’s release and Tambe’s resignation, he plans on staying with the center next year.
“I was afraid my kids would be retaliated against if I complained about the problems at ECE,” he said. “But I think we are in a better situation now.”